neuromorphogenesis:

Three Planes of Human Brain: Coronal, Sagittal and Horizontal.
From Michigan State University - Brain Biodiversity Bank.
neuromorphogenesis:

Three Planes of Human Brain: Coronal, Sagittal and Horizontal.
From Michigan State University - Brain Biodiversity Bank.
neuromorphogenesis:

Three Planes of Human Brain: Coronal, Sagittal and Horizontal.
From Michigan State University - Brain Biodiversity Bank.

HT - earthstory:

Glowing sand in the Maldives

The Maldives are a nation composed of a pair of island chains in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Indian subcontinent. On the beaches of these islands at night…a beautiful glow can be found, shown in these photos taken by a visitor to the islands.

This glow is produced by a type of plankton, most likely a dinoflagellate. These single-celled organisms are bioluminescent, producing a pale blue light via a chemical reaction when they are disturbed.

Almost any subtle disturbance can make the critters begin to glow, whether it is natural wave action or something as simple as a footprint.

Although the glow can be lovely, the most common bioluminescent species also produce chemicals that can be toxic to humans, so swimming in waters producing these blue lights in many cases may not be safe (check with the local authorities to be sure if you ever wonder).

-JBB

Image credit: Mr. Ho - reproduced here with permission
http://www.flickr.com/photos/78546112@N00/with/11268957205/

Read more:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/zoology/all-about-animals/bioluminescence.htm
http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/b/bioluminescence.htm

tarassein:

"What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves" ~Gandhi

tarassein:

"What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves" ~Gandhi

(via lucidnirvana)

mermaidskey:

There are few things, in my opinion, that look so beautiful under a microscope as cyanobacteria. Formerly known as blue-green algae, this is some truly amazing stuff. It can be found everywhere- from oceans to lakes to soils. We use it in “superfood” smoothies and to make biofuel. Most importantly, life as we know it on this planet probably wouldn’t exist without it.
Cyanobacteria is able to do two really important things: it performs photosynthesis, using the energy of sunlight to split water and make sugars, and it can “fix” atmospheric nitrogen into an organic form. This second skill is especially important. Every living thing needs nitrogen to build DNA, proteins, and other important things found in cells. The atmosphere of the earth is over 70% nitrogen gas, but this gas is made up of pairs of nitrogen atoms that are tightly bound together and very difficult to split apart to make other stuff. Cyanobacteria have an enzyme (nitrogenase) that can split apart the nitrogen pairs and convert them to ammonium, a nitrogen compound that living things can more readily use. There are only a handful of organisms that can do this, and they are all microbes. Every other living thing relies on these guys to make nitrogen available for the rest of us.
Pretty sweet! But it gets even sweeter.
Notice how most of the cells in that picture have little green globs inside, but some of the cells just look empty? Those little green globs are folds in the cell membrane that contain the pigments that capture light for photosynthesis. The energy from the captured light splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen goes on to combine with carbon dioxide to make sugar, and the oxygen is released as waste. When cyanobacteria first figured out how to do this, there was no oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere. All that oxygen slowly built up from years and years of these little guys splitting water to make sugar. About 2.4 billion years ago, Great Oxidation Event occurred: the concentration of oxygen in our atmosphere hit about 1% of what it is today. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was enough to radically change the course of life on this planet.
And speaking of evolution, chloroplasts (the organelles that perform photosynthesis in plant cells) most likely evolved from a cyanobacterium that was engulfed by a bigger cell. We know this because the DNA in chloroplasts is much more similar to cyanobacteria DNA than it is to the DNA found in the nucleus of the plant’s cells. Every plant you can think of contains a cyanobacterial ancestor in each of its cells.
Ok, cool, but what about those empty cells up there? Those are called heterocysts, and they’re basically little nitrogen-fixing factories. It turns out that nitrogenase, that enzyme that fixes nitrogen gas, is really sensitive to oxygen. Photosynthesis produces a ton of oxygen as waste. So, the nitrogenase has to be kept in its own compartment separate from where the photosynthesis happens. This means that while most of the cyanobacteria are capturing sunlight and producing sugars, a couple of them are being fed sugars by the other cyanobacteria, and providing fixed nitrogen in return. This is a pretty cool concept, because remember- each one of those cells up there is a single organism. This means that they have basically formed a community where goods and services are being exchanged, and jobs are being assigned. Sound familiar? It’s basically what happens between the cells in your body, except on a smaller scale. 
Is your mind blown yet?
(Somebody make me a necklace that looks like these things, please?)

mermaidskey:

There are few things, in my opinion, that look so beautiful under a microscope as cyanobacteria. Formerly known as blue-green algae, this is some truly amazing stuff. It can be found everywhere- from oceans to lakes to soils. We use it in “superfood” smoothies and to make biofuel. Most importantly, life as we know it on this planet probably wouldn’t exist without it.

Cyanobacteria is able to do two really important things: it performs photosynthesis, using the energy of sunlight to split water and make sugars, and it can “fix” atmospheric nitrogen into an organic form. This second skill is especially important. Every living thing needs nitrogen to build DNA, proteins, and other important things found in cells. The atmosphere of the earth is over 70% nitrogen gas, but this gas is made up of pairs of nitrogen atoms that are tightly bound together and very difficult to split apart to make other stuff. Cyanobacteria have an enzyme (nitrogenase) that can split apart the nitrogen pairs and convert them to ammonium, a nitrogen compound that living things can more readily use. There are only a handful of organisms that can do this, and they are all microbes. Every other living thing relies on these guys to make nitrogen available for the rest of us.

Pretty sweet! But it gets even sweeter.

Notice how most of the cells in that picture have little green globs inside, but some of the cells just look empty? Those little green globs are folds in the cell membrane that contain the pigments that capture light for photosynthesis. The energy from the captured light splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen goes on to combine with carbon dioxide to make sugar, and the oxygen is released as waste. When cyanobacteria first figured out how to do this, there was no oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere. All that oxygen slowly built up from years and years of these little guys splitting water to make sugar. About 2.4 billion years ago, Great Oxidation Event occurred: the concentration of oxygen in our atmosphere hit about 1% of what it is today. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was enough to radically change the course of life on this planet.

And speaking of evolution, chloroplasts (the organelles that perform photosynthesis in plant cells) most likely evolved from a cyanobacterium that was engulfed by a bigger cell. We know this because the DNA in chloroplasts is much more similar to cyanobacteria DNA than it is to the DNA found in the nucleus of the plant’s cells. Every plant you can think of contains a cyanobacterial ancestor in each of its cells.

Ok, cool, but what about those empty cells up there? Those are called heterocysts, and they’re basically little nitrogen-fixing factories. It turns out that nitrogenase, that enzyme that fixes nitrogen gas, is really sensitive to oxygen. Photosynthesis produces a ton of oxygen as waste. So, the nitrogenase has to be kept in its own compartment separate from where the photosynthesis happens. This means that while most of the cyanobacteria are capturing sunlight and producing sugars, a couple of them are being fed sugars by the other cyanobacteria, and providing fixed nitrogen in return. This is a pretty cool concept, because remember- each one of those cells up there is a single organism. This means that they have basically formed a community where goods and services are being exchanged, and jobs are being assigned. Sound familiar? It’s basically what happens between the cells in your body, except on a smaller scale. 

Is your mind blown yet?

(Somebody make me a necklace that looks like these things, please?)

montereybayaquarium:

Happy #Monday! You have to get up mighty early—like Security Officer David Dillon—to catch a shot like this. Have a great week!

Plan your visit

byhannahrosengren:

Plant These To Help Save Bees: 21 Bee-Friendly Plants. Learn more here!

Hannah Rosengren 2013

(via science-junkie)

image Today I woke up in a terrible mood and I had no idea why. The regular tasks like making breakfast, taking out the trash or finding my keys just aggravated me. There was no reason to be in a bad mood. My life is going well at the moment. It just seemed a circumstance, off serotonin levels, bad night sleep, I don’t know. When I got on my bike to start the commute to work that bad mood fell away. I feel like a kid and a superhero all at the same time when I’m on a bicycle. There is pure joy in it for me. As my metabolism gets crankin’ so do my thoughts. More visions of the illuminated phylogenetic tree burst into my head and plans were made to send out e-mails, assemble a team to make it happen. 

While thinking about my affection for the act of riding a bike I recalled reading an amazing passage in Earnest Hemingway’s Moveable Feast last year. In it he describes attending the veledrome races in Paris. I recall getting that tingling sensation you get when you hear a moving piece of classical music of see a painting close enough to notice the brush-strokes.

Here it is. I hope it strikes the same chord with you that it did with me. 

 I have started many stories about bicycle racing but have never written one that is as good as the races are both on the indoor and outdoor tracks and on the roads. But I will get the Velodrome d’Hiver with the smoky light of the afternoon and the high-banked wooden track and the whirring sound the tyres made on the wood as the riders passed, the effort and the tactics as the riders climbed and plunged, each one a part of his machine; I will get the magic of the demi-fond,  the noise of the motors with their rollers set out behind them that the entraineurs  rode, wearing their heavy crash helmets and leaning backwards in their ponderous leather suits, to shelter the riders who followed them from the air resistance, the riders in their lighter crash helmets bent low over their handlebars, their legs turning the huge gear sprockets and the small front wheels touching the roller behind the machine that gave them shelter to ride in, and the duels that were more exciting than anything, the put-puting of  the motorcycles and the riders elbow to elbow and wheel to wheel up and down and around at deadly speed until one man could not hold the pace and broke away and the solid wall of air that he had been sheltered against hit him.

     There were so many kinds of racing. The straight sprints raced in heats or in match races where the two riders would balance for long seconds on their machines for the advantage of making the other rider take the lead, and then the slow circling and the final plunge into the driving purity of speed. There were the programmes of the team races of two hours, with a series of pure sprints in their heats to fill the afternoon, the lonely absolute speed events of one man racing an hour against the clock, the terribly dangerous and beautiful races of one hundred kilometres on the big banked wooden five-hundred-metre bowl of the Stade Buffalo, the outdoor stadium at Montrouge where they raced behind big motorcycles, Linart, the great Belgian champion that they called ‘the Sioux’ for his profile, dropping his head to suck up cherry brandy from a rubber tube that connected with a hot-water bottle under his racing shirt when he needed it towards the end as he increased his savage speed, and the championships of France behind big motors of the six-hundred-and-sixty metre cement track of the Pare du Prince near Auteuil, the wickedest track of all where we saw that great rider Ganay fall and heard his skull crumple under the crash helmet as you crack a hard-boiled egg against a stone to peel it on a picnic. I must write the strange world of the six-day races and the marvels of the road-racing in the mountains. French is the only language it has ever been written in properly and the terms are all French and that is what makes it hard to write. Mike was right about it, there is no need to bet. But that comes at another time in Paris.

earthlynation:

…….S…….. by jeerasak Chaisongmuang

 

oculi-ds:

Gepunktete Wurzelmundqualle by Grit Ende

(via earthlynation)

Feeling Feedback

Once upon a time there was an unsuspecting ant on the rainforest floor somewhere in Thailand. Marching along single-file between his brothers he was minding his own business, when he suddenly cocked his head and sniffed a moldy kind of smell. Thinking nothing of it, he kept on walking but soon found himself compelled to get out of line and began wandering off into the forest alone. He felt disoriented, confused, not knowing what was happening to him. Our tiny friend then found himself at the base of a towering leafy plant. Looking up at the massive translucent leaves he began to climb. Higher and higher he climbed up the central trunk, passing branch after branch, all the while loosing any idea of where he was or what he was doing. Once he reached a height where the air was thick with humidity he stopped climbing and began to walk out onto a leaf. Over the edge of the leaf he could see the long homeward-bound procession of his brothers far below. But before he could make another move he felt an overwhelming urge to bite down on the central vein of the leaf where he found himself perched. As he bit down he felt all the energy in his tiny body flow to the muscles in his head and mandibles and he bit harder than he had ever bit before. His life flashed before his eyes and in an instant he was dead, frozen. 

What has happened to our little ant friend?

Just a few days after the ant’s demise a long grey tube began to grow from inside his head, eventually puncturing the top of his ant-skull it continued to grow into a large mushroom. As soon as the fruiting body had fully unfurled tiny spores were released from the cap and sprinkled like snow, slowly down over a fresh line of brother ants where the entire sordid tale began anew.

This is a true story. As you can see, this fungus has hijacked the ant's body turning it into a zombie of sorts, bending the ant's behavior to work exclusively for the benefit of the fungus.This is not the only example of this kind of fucked up relationship in nature. There is nematode worm that lives part of it's life cycle inside the guts of birds. When the birds poop in the jungle, ants eat the poo and with it the nematode larva. Inside the ant's stomach the nematode enters the next phase of its life cycle causing the ant's abdomen to swell and turn bright red. The round red ants look like ripe local berries to hungry birds and the cycle starts again.  Crazy!

Humans are still plagued by extreme parasites as well. The killer gut bacteria Clostridium difficile (widely known as C. diff) causes 14,000 deaths in the US annually according to the Centers for Disease Control. The extreme diarrhea symptomatic of C.diff.  can cause patients to loose a third of their body weight or more. As C.diff usually proliferates in the wake of long antibiotic regimes it is often resistant to antibiotics.  At the same time C. diff. ferociously out-competes the diversity of benign bacteria (part of the microbiome) that regularly inhabit the ecosystem inside the human gut. 

Fear not! A radically simple and effective treatment has emerged for this problem. Fecal transplants! That’s right, people get so desperate when they have lost 80+ lbs and are too weak to walk they will try anything. But this shit actually works! Doctors get a “donor” to poop into a container, then they mix it up into a slurry with some water, and deliver the slurry to the colon with a colonoscopy-style tube, or… the doctors can also deposit the donor’s poop slurry through a nose-tube into the stomach. I almost just barfed typing that out.  Usually the fecal “donor” is a spouse or a parent, and four out of five patients who receive this poop infusion are cured on the first go!

It is hard to think of near-fatal diarrhea as a behavior but, strictly speaking, it is. The point I want to make by bringing up C.diff infection is that a human behavior - extreme diarrehea - can be changed by a fecal transplant. A transfer of the microbial garden from one field to another can literally change the culture.

So far I have examined extreme examples of behavior modification by parasites. They are extreme in the sense that the victims pay with their lives, but what if there were a whole lot more of these relationships than we ever thought? Relationships in which the host’s behavior only had to be manipulated slightly to help the parasite. What if much of human behavior is largely dictated by the the non-human denizens of our bodies? One out of ten cells making up  a person’s body are actually of the species Homo sapiens. The rest? Fungus, bacteria, mites, protozoa and a whole ecosystem of diverse fauna. The question is, how democratic is the human body in decision making? Do the peptides secreted by your gut bacteria help decide what to eat, who to mate with, when to fight and when to run?

Enter Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoa that has just such subtle effects on human behavior. In an article published in the European Journal of Personality researchers report that human beings inoculated with these tiny creatures are more outgoing socially, have a higher rate of car crashes, and become less and less conscientious the longer they carry the parasite (especially men).  The shocking part of this study was the number of people who host this little bug - 22.4% of the US population over the age of 12! T. gondii is generally thought to be benign unless present in pregnant women or infants where it can cause damage to developing tissue.  The protozoa is so small during the stage of its life cycle when it lives inside humans it actually penetrates the cells, living in heart and brain tissues. As it replicates it can form benign cysts in the heart and brain… yuck!  The prevalence of T. gondii is underscored by it’s signature behavioral modification - extroversion.  By rendering its host more outgoing it increases the likelihood it will spread to additional hosts. Diabolical! Are there any benefits to knowing this? could someone with chronic shyness inoculate themselves with this bug and make themselves more sociable? Might we extract the biochemical mechanism this bug uses and just make an extroversion drug instead? Who knows! Time will tell.  

To me, it is interesting to ponder how deep this connection between medical ecology and human behavior will play out. Are we, like the ant at the beginning of this story, bouncing like a pin-ball between the needs and desires of tiny creatures that call our bodies home?

By writing out these thoughts I want to get my readers thinking about behavior and the unseen factors that influence it. You know that person at work who really gets on your nerves with the constant close-talking? Maybe it’s not their fault. May they’re acting on a whim of one of their microbial free-riders. Maybe this is true for a lot of human traits. Will we identify more human behaviors that operate under direct feedback by bacteria? fungus? protozoa? cats? dogs? Can we “fix” people by modifying their microbial clouds? Should we? How will super-cheap gene sequencing affect social dynamics?

I do not have the answers to these questions. Maybe you do. Is this a worthy line of scientific inquiry? Share your thoughts below or find me on twitter @thorsonofodin.

Written by Kristopher Hite
1.) Andersen SB, Gerritsma S, Yusah KM, Mayntz D, Hywel-Jones NL, Billen J, Boomsma JJ, & Hughes DP (2009). The life of a dead ant: the expression of an adaptive extended phenotype. The American naturalist, 174 (3), 424-33 PMID: 19627240  

2.) Khoruts A, Dicksved J, Jansson JK, & Sadowsky MJ (2010). Changes in the composition of the human fecal microbiome after bacteriotherapy for recurrent Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. Journal of clinical gastroenterology, 44 (5), 354-60 PMID: 20048681  

3.) Jitka Lindová1„ Lenka Příplatová„ & Jaroslav Flegr (2012). Higher Extraversion and Lower Conscientiousness in Humans Infected with Toxoplasma European Journal of Personality, 26 (3), 285-291 DOI: 10.1002/per.838